The No. 5 Kentucky Wildcats women's basketball team beat Mississippi State by 53 Thursday night for their 16th straight win and 32nd straight at home.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - DeNesha Stallworth's night started with the Kentucky forward receiving a specially-marked game ball recognizing her recently surpassing 1,000 career points.
Stallworth ended it with her Wildcats career high, scoring 25 points to help No. 5 Kentucky move to 17-1 for the best start in school history with a 100-47 rout of Mississippi State on Thursday.
After missing her first three shots, Stallworth made 9 of her final 12 for her best game with Kentucky. She fell five points short of her career high achieved against USC as a California freshman in January 2010. She's in her first season with the Wildcats after sitting out last season following her transfer.
"I rushed a couple of shots," said Stallworth, who also had six rebounds and four assists. "I have to continue to play tough and play through contact, so that's something I have to work on."
Stallworth's performance keyed a night of milestones for the Wildcats, who moved past the 1982-83 team which opened 16-1.
Kentucky's 53-point victory margin was its largest over an SEC opponent in school history, while its 35 turnovers and 17 steals were also SEC highs. The Wildcats scored 42 points off turnovers.
A'dia Mathies added 21 points and Bria Goss had 13 as Kentucky (17-1, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) also extended its school-record winning streak to 16 games and its record home streak to 32.
Kendra Grant had 11 points and Carnecia Williams 10 for Mississippi State (8-10, 0-5), which lost its fifth straight overall and sixth in a row to Kentucky. It was also the Bulldogs' second consecutive lopsided loss on the Wildcats' home floor, following a 48-point defeat last January.
"That's a great basketball team out there," first-year Bulldogs coach Vic Schaefer said of Kentucky. "We lost to a great team and we were pretty outmanned."
While the domination was nothing new for a Kentucky squad that has defended its floor well for nearly two years, the Wildcats had to fight to win their previous two home games against Florida and Texas A&M.
Kentucky, which plays four of its next five games at home, shot 50 percent (37 of 74) from the field and outrebounded the Bulldogs 46-20. The Wildcats' 26 offensive rebounds alone were more than Mississippi State.
"Coach always tells us that great offensive rebounding teams win the SEC," said Mathies, who had six rebounds along with Samarie Walker and Stallworth. "We want to be a good rebounding team in general, so we went out and crashed the boards on both sides and blocked out so they won't get the rebounds. It worked pretty well tonight."
Kentucky had just one shot blocked by a Mississippi State squad that came in averaging an SEC-best 5.4 per game. Bulldogs center Martha Alwal (2.4) entered the game with eight double-doubles this season, just one behind league leader Kelsey Bone of Texas A&M.
While that appeared to present a problem for Walker and Stallworth, both players asserted themselves from the opening tip and didn't let up. Alwal didn't score and had just four rebounds.
The Wildcats already had three offensive rebounds only 37 seconds in, and Walker and Stallworth combined for their first eight points. Goss followed with a three-point play for an 11-2 lead.
But the first half clearly belonged to Stallworth, who scored 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting and grabbed three rebounds. Walker had six points in the half and finished with nine after combining for five points in the past two games. She also had six rebounds.
Kentucky's defense harassed Mississippi State into 17 first-half turnovers, leading to 18 points. The Wildcats' pressure also forced two shot clock violations, culminating in a 46-24 halftime lead.
Mathies opened the second half with consecutive 3-pointers for Kentucky, which mounted a 27-2 run for a 67-26 lead.
All but one player scored for Kentucky, which also got 21 points from its reserves. Kastine Evans added 12 points for Kentucky and Brittany Henderson had eight rebounds.
Wildcats forward Azia Bishop also made a sooner-than-expected return from a left wrist injury sustained three games ago against Alabama. Expected to miss four contests, she checked in just before halftime and had four rebounds and two points in nine minutes.
After shooting just 40 percent in their four previous SEC games, Wildcats coach Matthew Mitchell was happy with his team's best game from the field and second 100-point effort this season.
"(We were) really good at the 3-point line tonight and really good at that free-throw line tonight," said Mitchell, adding that his team was "pretty good making layups and trying to get in there and drawing some contact and making some shots in the paint.
"Just not a lot to complain about on offense."
UK Hoops Postgame Notes
Jan. 17, 2013
Final Score: No. 5/5 Kentucky 100 – Mississippi State 47
Team Records and Series Notes
• Kentucky improves to 17-1, 5-0 SEC, while Mississippi State falls to 8-10, 0-5 SEC.
• UK begins conference play at 5-0 for the second straight season.
• UK returns to action against Auburn on Sunday, Jan. 20 at 2 p.m. EST in Memorial Coliseum. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.
• Kentucky is in its 39th year of varsity play and owns an overall record of 673-472 (.588).
o UK is 150-216 all-time in SEC play.
• Head coach Matthew Mitchell is in his sixth year and ranks third on the all-time wins list (131-57) and first in winning percentage (.697). He is only seven wins away from becoming the all-time winningest coach.
• Mitchell is now 53-28 in SEC games (regular season only).
• Kentucky has extended its school-record winning streak to 16 games. The streak is tied with Duke for the longest current winning streak in the country.
• UK increased its school-record for consecutive home wins at 32. The previous record was 30 set from Feb. 12, 1980 until Jan. 31, 82.
• The Wildcats own a 368-140 (.724) mark in Memorial Coliseum, including a 78-12 (.867) mark under Mitchell.
o The Cats are now 60-2 at home over the last three seasons.
o UK is now 32-9 in SEC home games under Mitchell, including an impressive 25-2 mark in the last three seasons.
o Kentucky has won a school-record 13 consecutive SEC home games.
• Fourteen of UK’s 17 wins have been by 18 points or more.
• Kentucky now leads the all-time series 22-17 vs. the Bulldogs.
o UK is now 10-8 all-time vs. MSU in games played in Lexington.
o Kentucky has won the last six meetings between the two schools.
• UK's starting lineup featured A'dia Mathies, Bria Goss, Jennifer O'Neill, Samarie Walker and DeNesha Stallworth for the 12th straight game. The Cats are now 14-0 with that lineup.
o The Cats began the game on an 11-2 run.
o With UK leading 22-17 at the 9:10 mark in the first half, the Cats finished the half on a 24-7 run.
• The 46 points scored in the first half are an SEC-high.
o Most points in first half since scoring 51 vs. DePaul (12/7/12).
o The 22-point halftime lead is the largest in SEC play this season.
• The 100 points scored tied the season high. UK also scored 100 points against USC Upstate (11/25).
o Marks the first time UK has scored 100 or more points vs. a SEC opponent since defeating Vanderbilt 106-85 on Jan. 23, 1983.
o UK improves to 38-0 all-time when scoring 100 points or more.
• The 53-point margin of victory is the largest against an SEC opponent in school history.
• UK forced an SEC-high 35 turnovers.
• UK had an SEC-high 17 steals.
• The Cats hit an SEC-high 50 percent from the floor (37-of-74) and are now 5-0 this season when doing so.
• The Wildcats won the rebounding battle 46-20, the largest rebounding margin in league play this season.
o UK had more offensive rebounds (26) than Mississippi State had total rebounds (20).
• UK had two players record 20-plus points for the second time this season. Stallworth and O’Neill both had 20-plus points vs. Marist on Dec. 30, 2012.
• Stallworth’s 18 first half points were the most by a Wildcat this season and the most since Amani Franklin scored 20 in the first half vs. UC-Santa Barbara on Dec. 12, 2008.
• The Wildcats extended their streak of consecutive games with a triple to 310.
• UK won the turnover battle 35-19 and is now 109-27 under Mitchell when committing fewer turnovers than its opponent.
• Kentucky has forced double-digit miscues in 135 consecutive games and is 102-33 during that span.
• Junior center DeNesha Stallworth recorded a UK career-high 25 points in just 24 minutes of action.
o Netted a UK career-high nine field goals.
o Has reached double figures in 16-of-18 games, including 15 in a row.
o Has tallied two 20-point games this year.
o Has made 30 of her last 33 free throws, including 14 in a row.
o Scored the most points by a UK player since A’dia Mathies scored 26 vs. Alabama on Feb. 16, 2012.
• Senior guard A'dia Mathies scored 21 points, marking the 16th time she has reached double figures this season, including nine in a row.
o Has posted 22 career 20-point games, including three this season.
o Played in her 122nd career game, tying her for seventh all-time in UK Hoops history with Tiffany Wait (1995-2000).
o Made her 121st career start, tying her for No. 2 all-time with Samantha Mahoney (2005-08).
• Redshirt sophomore point guard Jennifer O'Neill recorded seven assists, marking the fourth straight game with four or more assists.
o Tied a career-high four steals. She also had four vs. Marist on Dec. 30, 2012.
• Sophomore guard Bria Goss posted 13 points and reached double-figures for the 10th time this season.
• Junior guard Kastine Evans came off the bench and tied a season-high with 12 points on a season-best five field goals.
• Senior forward Brittany Henderson came off the bench and grabbed a game-high eight rebounds in just 12 minutes.
Kentucky Women’s Basketball
No. 5 Kentucky vs. Mississippi State
Memorial Coliseum – Lexington, Ky.
Jan. 17, 2013
Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell
Opening Statement …
“We are really pleased tonight to get a victory and certainly proud of our players. They worked really hard and played really hard and it was a good night for us. Everybody contributed. We are a happy group of Wildcats tonight.”
On the team’s pressure defense and Mississippi State’s coach teaching him that style of defense …
“I thought our players worked really hard tonight. It is just not really, really complicated. It is just a lot of work and denying the ball one pass away and putting a lot of pressure on the ball. So the thing that Vic (Schaefer) did for me and that I am really appreciative of and what great teachers do, is they give you three or four things that you can kind of really hold on to. I can remember him talking about how important it was to pressure the ball. I remember him telling me there needed to be three or four drills that you hang your hat on and the players know they are going to do it every day and it really builds confidence. Those couple of things, pressuring the ball so you can’t get it into the post when you have undersized post defenders, those things really stuck with me. We have tried to do that day-in and day-out and tried to stay committed to defense fundamentals and defensive footwork and you have to stay really committed to it. It just doesn’t happen. You don’t show up tonight and say, ‘Hey, we are going to play tough defense.’ You have to commit to it over the course of time and I think it will be really soon when you see that kind of defense from Mississippi State.”
On why his players play as hard as they do and if they play hard because they feel a certain way about him …
“I don’t think they play hard for me, I think they play hard for Kentucky. We try to make certain that everybody that is here comes in with their eyes wide open as to what this is about. This is about honoring this university with a women’s basketball program that this university should have. It is a choice. Everybody has a choice. We don’t do it like everybody does and this place isn’t for everybody. But, if it is for you, I think it is a heck of a place to go and go play. We aren’t twisting anyone’s arm or holding a gun to anyone’s head. We are just telling you that we think this is really special and really unique. We think the school deserves a great program and we are going to try like heck to give it to them. I think everybody is pretty clear on that. If that is not what you want, you won’t be here and this isn’t the place for you. There are other places you can go. We just try to make sure our players know they chose to be here and know what they signed up for. We just have a great group of kids that work really hard.”
On Mississippi State’s coach saying the secret to being successful is having players like the coach …
“Well, we will have to poll the players because that will be news to me if they do. If they like me, it will be news to me. I have always said the most important thing for me in my life is to be popular (laughing from audience). Hopefully, my popularity with the players is sky high. That would be really good. I would be happy about that.”
On what stood out to him on the box score …
“The thing that leaps off the page is the 35 turnovers because even if you have an advantage in talent in the game, you still have to really hustle to do that. That is a lot of turnovers and you just have to hustle and that is the thing that has impressed me the most about this team lately is they are just hustling. It sounds very simple, and it is simple, but it is not easy to do. We have a bunch of players on this team that are really getting after it and hustling and scraping after lose basketballs and trying to make plays. A lot of good things tonight.”
On the offensive performance …
“(We were) really good at the 3-point line tonight and really good at that free-throw line tonight. Pretty good making layups and trying to get in there and drawing some contact and making some shots in the paint. I thought we were really good at points in the paint tonight. Just not a lot to complain about on offense. Just another spectacular night for Jennifer O’Neill, just a spectacular night of basketball for her. There is nobody that I have seen, and I haven’t seen everybody, but there is nobody I have seen that is pushing the basketball up the court like Jennifer O’Neill. She is a weapon right now, man. She can get that ball to the other end so fast and she can do it two at a time in the game when everyone else is trying to catch a break or two. Lot of good stuff for us on offense tonight.”
On saying preseason that this was a Final Four-type team and if this was the performance he was expecting when he said that…
“I think that to make the Final Four in women’s college basketball you have to be a really, really good team. I think you have to play well obviously during tournament time. The thing I have always felt like, out of all the teams in the country, we are one of them that maybe has the opportunity because of our talent level. There is just a long, long way to go. But I think we have some talent and they are hustling right now. The thing I love about this game more than anything was how they prepared. They were really sharp preparing for this game. We were 4-0 coming in and Mississippi State was 0-4 and I didn’t detect that was really a factor in their preparation. I think that will be a key in whatever success we have is are they committed to really trying to be the best they can and are they committed to holding themselves of a high standard. So tonight was a good game. I don’t know where we will end up, but if this team will hold itself to a high standard they will have a chance to do some good things.”
On Azia Bishop returning early …
“I was not trying to mislead anybody. All of us will be mad at Azia Bishop the next time we see her. She made me look bad and created an adversarial situation with all of you, I am not trying to do that at all. We need to have good relationships here (laughing). I just didn’t think she was going to play. So then, she pops up at practice yesterday and says she is feeling good. Then the trainer, Courtney (Jones), comes in and I am mad at Courtney, too. She said it was going to be three or four games, but what was it? Two games? Just bad information. Not a good situation at all. I take no responsibility for it at all. I thought she did a good job. She is going to be in that splint for, I think, look, I probably shouldn’t say this because I don’t know (laughter). I have been told another couple of games (on the splint). The whole thing I talked to her about over at Missouri on Saturday night before we played, just telling her she needed to come back and I thought she was playing really hard at Alabama. She was playing really hard when she got hurt and that we really need her to come back for energy. I think she had nine minutes and three offensive boards, something like that. If you can translate that into 20 minutes and six offensive boards then Azia Bishop is playing if you ever see that going on there. I was really happy with her tonight and thankful that she was able to bounce back faster than anyone of us thought she would.”
On A’dia Mathies saying the team rebounded better because they jumped higher …
“Gotta get A’dia back to media training don’t we? That is a bad, bad answer. We jumped higher? We were just technically sound. We thought that we had clearly an advantage tonight in the game in size, speed and athleticism. I just tell them simple things like this, ‘The only way anybody is going to know that is if you go do it.’ So you have to get in there and get around the boards. I thought we did an OK job. I thought our offense did a good job of trying to get Mississippi State out of position. So a lot of those boards did come to us because I thought State had to hustle so much to try and cover some people and their rotations got the defense distorted a little bit. So we had some easier looks at some offensive rebounds, but still we caused 35 turnovers so even if you have an advantage in speed and size and athleticism you still have to do it. I am happy anytime we can have a good night on the boards. I think that is going to be something that is important and important in this league specifically.”
#11, DeNesha Stallworth, Jr., C
On the atmosphere in Memorial Coliseum…
“Big Blue Nation has been doing a fantastic job coming out and showing their support and we played hard for them.”
On her dad being at the game…
“Yes, my dad is here. I’m a daddy’s girl. He is also staying for the Auburn game, and it’s very exciting for him to be here. It means a lot that he is here.”
On missing the first three shots
“I was just rushing and falling away. I just have to work on going through contact and not being afraid to just power through, so that is something I will have to focus on.”
#1, A’dia Mathies, Sr., G
On what tonight’s game meant for the team…
“It means a lot. It just shows how much hard work we’ve put in.”
On the beginning of the game…
“We know that not everyone is going to get their best shot during the first four minutes of the game. But we knew that if we continued to play great defense and do the things we should be doing, that we would eventually break and get the lead.”
On the rebounding margin…
“I think with every game it’s important. We’ve got to go out there and rebound. Coach always tells us that the champions in the SEC are great offensive rebounding teams and are great rebounding teams in general. So we just go in there and try and crash the boards on both sides and we tried to block out so they couldn’t get the ball and we came out on top tonight.”
Mississippi State Head Coach Vic Schaefer
Opening Statement …
“Obviously they’re very good. In the first half, we tried to spread them out a little bit and try to get in some one-on-one situations. We knew that anytime you screened the ball, they were going to jump and double it. We had some limitations, size wise, at point guard so we knew that could be a problem for us. Matthew (Mitchell) has done an unbelievable job. He’s done a great job, got great players, great system and I think his kids play extremely hard. In this game, it’s not what you do, but how you do it that separates you from a lot of people. There’s a lot of good teams around the country. There’s very few great teams. I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of some great teams over the last few years at A&M and we live by that saying. Coach Mitchell has got that here at Kentucky right now. It’s not what they do, but how they do it that separates them. He’s got some really great players and a great staff. They got those kids playing at high level and it’s hard to deal with and hard to prepare for. That’s something that I’ve been trying to impart on this group. I’ve got obviously a young and inexperienced team but that’s what allows you to be great. That’s a great basketball team out there. You got a great coach with a great plan. We lost to a good team today. Obviously, we’re pretty out-woman at every position but I was proud of several of my kids too. I thought they competed for most of the game. Right now, that’s what we’re trying to teach Mississippi State, trying to teach competing and trying to teach toughness right now.”
On giving Coach Mitchell tips about defense…
“That’s a story that probably needs to be told to Sports Illustrated or something like that. He and I went through it like two straight days on the phone and I kept telling him, ‘Matthew, we can sit here and talk.’ We talked for a couple hours, for a couple straight days – this was three or four years back – and he just felt like he needed to do something. Again, we talked about it but you’ve got to give that guy credit. He’s got those kids playing hard for him. I’ve got another saying in this game, ‘When you coach women’s basketball, you don’t have to be their best friend but if they don’t like you, they’re not going to play hard for you.’ I’m giving away a secret because I bet there are a lot of people out there that don’t have that relationship with the players. I think he’s got it and I think that’s the secret to being a successful basketball coach, especially in the women’s game. I bet it’d work pretty good on the other side to, to be honest with you. I’ve been to some gyms where how you talk to somebody is a whole lot different on that side of the fence than on our side. That’s really a big secret and Kendra (Grant) will tell you, I’ve tried to impart that on our young ladies and we’ve spent some time on that, absolutely. He gets it and you’ve got to give him all the credit in the world for that because at the end of the day, he’s smart enough to know that No. 1, it’s not about him, No. 2, he went and got himself a good staff because he knows he can’t do it by himself, and then No. 3, they got players that fit their system. That’s our job right now at Mississippi State, we have got to go get some help and get some kids that fit our system and we’re trying to do that. In the meantime, we’ve got to teach a system and teach a way of life. It’s not what we do but how we do it because that’s what will separate us.